Why the Recruiter Is Asking
Open-ended questions such as this are terrific opportunities for the recruiter to get to know you better. There’s a limit to how much they can gain about an applicant’s true sense of self when inquiring about hard skills, such as education and previous experience. Instead, they’ll be seeking to understand how your intrinsic motivation and personality fit the role and the team.
Do Your Goals Line Up With the Company?
There really isn’t a wrong answer here, but there are better ones. Some companies, especially smaller startups, are likely seeking applicants who aren’t risk-averse. If the work is completed in a very team-oriented environment, recruiters might shy away from someone who expresses a drive to be individually recognized.
On the other hand, some remote roles might see that same candidate thriving with autonomy and independence. Likewise, if you’re passionate about supporting a worthy cause that the company also endorses, that shows a commitment beyond simply applying to any open position.
Have You Explored Your Own Motivations?
When you can expound on what makes you tick, it’s a signal to the recruiter that you’re self-aware. Applicants who recognize the responsibilities that bring them the most incredible sense of accomplishment are the ones most likely to be looking for longevity in their next move.
The Best Ways to Answer
As with any question in the interview process, you can set yourself up for success with research and practice for the specific role and company you’re applying for.
Recruiters might reword this, but inevitably, there will be a question determining how you’re going to fit into the company’s culture. Spend some time researching to get a feel for their mission and goals.
What do they appear to value the most? High-achievers with persuasive personalities, dynamic leaders with infectious energy, or calm, goal-oriented problem-solvers? Your answer will help the recruiter determine your suitability for both the company as a whole and the position itself.
Determine What Excites You About This Role
If you can articulate what about this position excites you the most, you’ll be able to work backward to provide an answer about your work style. For example, maybe you’re excited about leading a cross-functional team. Your answer might sound like this:
“In my previous contract role, I was responsible for overseeing several different teams. The teams successfully met their targets, and I found that I was extremely motivated by the challenge of balancing and organizing multiple deliverables.”
An answer like this will appeal to recruiters because you’ve expressed that you thrive on the challenges of multitasking and leadership—both of which are very desirable skills for the ideal candidate to have.
Keep It Relevant to the Position
Tying into the tip above, when you are preparing for the interview, you can consider what experiences will support your suitability for the role. When you tailored your resume, what were the keywords that stood out? Were there any soft skills listed as requirements?
If you’re applying for a role focused on customer experience, rather than numbers-driven, you can showcase how internal factors drive you. Perhaps you’re considering a role as a caregiver or in the medical field. Here, it would be best to highlight the emotional returns you’ll get in the role. In practice, that might sound like this:
“I am driven by the knowledge that I am helping to make people’s lives better. In my last role as a caregiver in a retirement home, some patients had hard days and weren’t always kind. However, I went home thankful that I was there to ease some of their challenges. Watching the wonderful caregivers when my grandmother was in retirement is actually what motivated me to pursue this profession.”
What You Shouldn’t Say
Just as there are great responses, there are some you should also shy away from. Practicing beforehand, such as in a mock interview, can be one of the best ways to ensure that you don’t trip yourself up. Avoid the following in your answers.
Don’t Be Negative
You might be in a horribly toxic work environment right now. While recruiters might empathize, that isn’t really going to motivate them that you’re the best fit for this role. It would be best if you also stayed away from negative comments in disguise. For example, you shouldn’t laughingly say that you’re motivated by “not getting fired.”
The recruiter will wonder if that’s happened before and you didn’t disclose it on your application. At the very least, your answer will come off as insincere rather than part of honest dialogue.
Don’t Be Generic
Rather than rambling about career goals, keep your answer focused. Sure, you might have dreams of one day starting your own company and running a nonprofit that supports sheep farmers or the at-risk elderly. Unless that directly ties into the role at hand, it’s probably not going to help you be seen as the best fit for this particular position. Connect the dots for recruiters.
Don’t Be Focused on Benefits
One of the reasons you are excited about the company may be the excellent benefits they’re known for. However, that can’t motivate you to do a great job every day. Rather than mention the vacation you’re planning to take or the jump in salary you’d be getting, keep it focused on how the role is a fantastic fit for you personally.
Remember, you want them to understand why you believe this is the best possible position for you.
Research and Practice for Success
You will find tremendous success at every stage of your job search with in-depth research and diligent practice. This holds especially true once you are at the interview stage.
Answering questions such as, “What motivates you to do a good job at work?” concisely with situational stories that support your skills helps ensure you move to the next round. Remember, your ultimate goal should be to help the recruiter see that this role was seemingly designed for you, as you appear to be a perfect fit for the position.
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